This past weekend I was set to run a 4 mile race which had been rescheduled.  Austin and I decided last minute to opt for the 10 miler instead.  I figured this was a good time to test my racing pace and to judge where my fitness was, since I have the upcoming Diva’s Half Marathon at the end of April.  I set out to run this race with one of my faster running friends.  I knew she could hold me to a higher pace, but I also had demons in the back of my mind saying I was bound to have a panic freak attack.  The night before the race, I had to work until almost midnight.  So, I was terrified my legs were going to be too tired and worn down to carry me to any sort of PR.  But, I knew I had a PR no matter what since this was my first attempt at the 10 mile race distance.

The morning started out fairly uneventful.  It was very difficult for me to get out of bed, as per usual, and had my cup of coffee in bed.  I got dressed in Nike tempo shorts and my compression sleeves.  Now that I have started running hills my compression socks and sleeves have become so important to me.  I don’t think I could race without them.  We lined up for the race and off we went.  I made it a point to put my sleeves over my watch so I couldn’t look at my pace and freak out if I was going too fast.  The first mile was up a long gradual incline.  Ouch.  I was already feeling that I had made a mistake about signing up for the 10 miler.  This was not the last time I would think this way in the race.  We finished mile one, 9:46.  Not too bad, but I wasn’t aware of my pace at this point.  I tried to focus on my breathing and remember things I have learned in my runner’s yoga classes.  In times of cardiac distress focus on your pacing of breaths.  So, for the next mile I decided to focus only on breathing.  Nothing else.  Finished mile 2, 9:21.  At this point, I was aware my body was moving a little faster than it was used to.  I thought of the 8 more miles I would have to run before I could stop and had a momentarily freak out.  Then, gave myself an attitude adjustment and pushed on.  Mile 3 was through a greenway so it was flat and nicely shaded.  The weather was perfect for running and I was so thankful I had made the decision to wear shorts.  Mile 3 flew by, 9:08.  What?  Who am I?  Mile 4 was my mile I allowed my thoughts to take over.  I welcomed the doubts and what if’s and decided that I could no longer push these thoughts out.  I thought about failure and the possibility of quitting this race and decided this would be the only mile I would think about this for the remainder of the race.  Mile 4, 9:36.  Mile 5 was a turning point for me.  I saw my pace and realized I was doing great.  I, for the first time, realized I am capable of running fast.  I am capable of so much more than I have given in the past 3 half marathons.  Mile 5, 9:36.  Mile 6 brought a hill and a little walking break to get my music right.  I listened to Aloe Blacc, The Man on repeat for 2 miles.  Mile 6, hill and walking break included, 9:47.  Mile 7 was mostly greenway and flat.  It even brought a few downhill bouts that I was happy to have.  I felt that on flat ground I could run at this pace forever.  Maybe that is a good omen for Diva’s.  Mile 7, 8:58. This was the first time I have ever seen a sub 9-minute mile on a split.  Let alone 7 miles in!?  Whaaaat!?  This gave me a huge confidence booster.  Mile 8-9 brought about the biggest set of hills I have ever encountered in my running.  Mile 8, 9:51.  Mile 9 was two back to back hills that I walked up both sets.  Mile 9 is also where I saw Austin come back to finish the run with me.  This will always be my favorite part of racing.  Seeing him come back for me after he has already run and finished his own race.  I love to take my mind off what I am doing and hear about his finish.  He placed 6th in the race and first in his age group.  He tells me the worst is behind us and this prompts me to quickly kick it into gear.  Mile 9, 11:08.  Ouch.  Those hills were the death of this mile.  The last mile, Austin runs beside me.  It is, as promised, all downhill.  I can see the finish line and kick it into a pace I have never see from myself before and sprint across the finish line.  Mile 10, 8:55.

This was by far the fastest time I have ever done.  I crossed the finish line in 1:35, with a 9:30 pace overall.  That puts me on target with a 2:05 half marathon (30 minute PR!).  My 10K PR was shattered, by almost a full 4 minutes.  I am so proud of myself and the leaps and bounds I have made in the past few months of my running.  This race helped me decide that I am going to shoot for a PR at Diva’s.  I am capable physically of running a 2:10 half and know one day I could do a sub 2-hour half marathon.

This week was a pretty good week for my fitness.  I have a 10 mile race coming up Saturday and followed by a half marathon next month.  So, I have been trying to increase my distances and get back to where I am in consistent half marathon shape.  This week was a great week for that goal.
Sunday

8.02 Miles/10:39 pace

This was a hilly hilly run.  I ran 7 miles with a friend and 1 mile to put me at 8 for the day.  I am still struggling with hills, but getting so much stronger.  I can hold a more steady pace and even have found myself getting faster during overall runs, even if it does include hills.  This run the sun was out and it was a beautiful day for it.  My mistake was under hydration and ended up getting a few side stitches, but have also found that running through those is coming a little more natural for me.

Monday

4.79 Miles/10:00 pace

This was a group run with some ladies from my running “club”.  They help me take my focus off of running, and very seldom to I run solo now.  Which has been very nice.  When I first started running I ran only alone, so having company and someone to hold me accountable has been tremendous amounts of good for me.  My splits for this session were awesome and this was one of my best training runs of the week.  (10:05, 10:30, 9:48, 9:42)

Tuesday

4.0 miles/10:18 pace

This run was a struggle compared to the run from the previous day.  I felt tired and fatigued and I could feel I was running on three days in a row.  But, I have a standing Tuesday date to run and we usually go 4-6 miles.  Today, we both wanted to stop at 2 but pushed through to the most we could take.  The splits were fairly even at a 10:10 pace, but the last mile included a decent walking break.  My legs felt heavy and lethargic, so I decided Wednesday would be a lovely rest day.

Wednesday

Sleep in/Rest/Foam Rolling

Recently, I have discovered a love for my foam roller and will be doing a post on that later this week.

Thursday

3.1 miles/10:15 pace

Normally, I have a running date with my running partner on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This Thursday in particular, I cancelled.  Then immediately knew that I needed to be out there, regardless of mileage or pace.  So, I begged her forgiveness and rescheduled!  We met out there at 8:30 a.m and did a short 5K of our very own.

 

Friday morning, I woke up not feeling great, so I took the weekend to rest and recover (and work).  I hit 8 miles yesterday and will plan for my 10 miler this weekend to be the “bar setter” for my fitness level in racing.  I haven’t been on any sort of training schedule this go around, so running free could or could not be working for me.  If I can get through this 10 miler with ease (or at least easier than before), I will continue to run schedule-less until Diva’s.  If I seem to be struggling, I will re-evaluate my goals and go from there.  I have been enjoying running so much more lately, and plan to keep the lack of schedule I have going on until I decide its time to go for the 26.2!  Thanks to everyone for the amazing response to the Meal Planning post!!  I will be doing more of those once a week and including popular recipies that we use weekly.  Next week will be a clean-eating reboot.  I am following Tosca Reno’s cooler plans and will be posting on those as well.

Thanks so much for reading!

So, besides running, I really enjoy meal planning and do it every week.  I usually try to meal plan through out the week and it all culminates with a big grocery trip every Sunday.  Sometimes during the week, I won’t have time to plan so Saturday or Sunday before the grocery store, I will plan quickly right before.  I have a bank of recipes that I typically take from every week, but lately have been trying to expand this bank by searching blogs and magazines.  I typically try to keep our meals to 75% clean eating and 25% other.  Since we both run a decent amount, we do eat a lot of bread (not clean!).  I also try to implement at least one meatless meal into our schedule and replace it with a healthy protein option (typically beans or quinoa).  So this week, I started meal planning a little earlier than usual to make sure I could encompass more clean eating than usual.  (Because of our terrible eating habits over the past few weeks).

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I have a template for meal plans that I made on my own computer and I also have one that I found on Pinterest that is amazing.  For this one, I wanted more room to write out the ingredients each meal required to make sure to not forget anything.  I also plan for what days I have to work (since I’m there for dinner) so that I can take food with me and leave food for Austin to have for dinner as well.  I ALWAYS take a clipboard with me to the grocery store and only buy what I have on my list.  It becomes way too easy to just start throwing things into the cart and at the end wind up with way more junk than I actually needed.  So, this is also a huge way to stay in keeping with my budget.

Dinners for the Week:

Sunday-Black bean patties with brown rice (Vegetarian day)

Monday  – Sausage and spinach pasta (one pot meal from Pinterest)

Tuesday – Baked Chicken with roasted veggies

Wednesday- Chicken, spinach, and feta burgers

Thursday- Buffalo Chicken Quinoa (Pinterst and one of my all time fave’s)

Friday- Veggie Frittata

Saturday is usually our night off and we go out to eat and Sunday it starts all over again!  I also try to keep healthy snacks and leftovers easily accessible in the refrigerator. If you are on the fence about meal planning or  think it is too time consuming, I urge you to give it a try.  It might take more than a week to get it down, but in the long run it is worth it!  It saves you money and time during the week (by not making a trip to the store every night or every other day!).  It doesn’t always go as planned, but being prepared for the week ahead definitely takes the stress out of dinner time.

So, mental aspect of training has become been a big thing for me.  Looking at a schedule and knowing that I have to run a certain amount of miles a week and do certain workouts on certain days is often great for the first few weeks, but after that I start to burn out.  Not to every say that structured training plans don’t work or shouldn’t be followed because I have and will certainly follow one again.  But, for these next two half marathons, I have decided not to do that route.  I joined a running club in Charlotte and have made several friends who run.  Most of these women keep their body in half marathon shape year round.  Ultimately, this is my goal as well.  So running with them only makes sense.  So, I have started running when I feel like it.  Going in with no expectations for pace/miles/time goals.  I can feel the difference in not only my attitude towards running, but my overall performance.

Mental aspects of training are often draining and I have found that running with someone or a group of people can take your mind away from the negative place it tends to go in times of self doubt.  I have always been a solo runner, and sometimes that it still nice.  But now I notice myself gravitating more towards running with friends.  It pushes me into running faster and farther than I might have gone alone.  It pushes me not to stop when I get a little tired, or turn around if the run isn’t going exactly how I planned.

So, yesterday I went out for a long-ish run with a friend.  I was just really running for the sake of being outdoors and told her to take the lead and set our pace.  When I moved to Charlotte, I knew the hills would be bad, but holy hills.  The neighborhood we went through was hillyyy!  They felt like they kept coming and kept coming.  But, I knew they were making me stronger.  For Divas it is all on flat ground, so this is very helpful.  It was also helpful for learning to keep proper form even when my body is screaming it’s tired.  This “training” cycle might not bring out a personal best for me or even get me close to great time, but I think it will bring me peace with running and fun.  Which is really what were all searching for anyways.

So, this last training cycle brought about a number of things.  It brought a move across state, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and best of all an engagement!  I tried my best to stay true, but true to form I couldn’t complete the training cycle without losing interest and feeling burnt out.  That being said I complete the Charleston half marathon, even through cold, windy conditions with a 2:31 time.  Pretty spectacular considering my lack luster training and we stopped to talk to our fan base ever 4 miles or so.  This was the first race I had ever run with a running partner (my cousin Leslie) and also happened to be my favorite race.  I am getting so much more comfortable with the distance and ready to tackle another instead of the usual pain and anguish.  So, I am going to sign up for the Divas Half, which was the first half marathon I ever completed!  When I line up to the start line, it will be my FOURTH half marathon!  ahh!  So exciting.  Crazy to think I ran four halves in one year.  This training cycle, I am taking a much more light hearted approach.  I am running with a friend twice a week at a much faster pace than I am originally used to.  I am going to try to just keep up with her and keep my body in half marathon shape year round.  Maybe run a half in May and go for a personal best.  But as for now, I am enjoying where I am at and for the first time I really feel at peace with my running.

 

I know I have taken quite the hiatus from blogging, but I am ready to recommit to it and after the move, it seems the best time to come back to it!

So, tomorrow is the end of my second full week of training.  This week has been fairly uneventful, but amping up the mileage has taken a toll on my calves for sure.  Tuesday night I ran some hills downtown.  There are very few hills at the beach, so finding one, usually means finding a lot of other runners.  There is only one hill that I know of, and there was 3 other people running up and down.  I started with a two mile warm up run to the hill and ran up and down 6 times.  I didn’t really worry much about pace, I more worried about getting to the top and maintaining my form the entire way.  After I finished I did a .5 mile cool down run and a nice long stretch.

 

Thursday.  Thursday was the kind of run I long for every time I lace up my shoes.  I have a friend who loves to ride her bike, so lately she has been biking me for my more difficult runs.  She has been so amazing and encouraging and just makes the miles go by so quickly!  If you can find a friend who doesn’t like to run but doesn’t mind biking, ask them to come with you!  It is so much more fun than going at it alone.  So, Thursday we set out to do a 2 mile warm up and 4×1 mile repeats at a quick pace with 90 seconds of rest in between repeats.  I was so nervous about this run because I rarely do repeats.  I rarely push myself to run fast, but I knew I was better equipped with biker girl being with me!  We started out and my two mile warm ups were right at 11 minutes.  When I started my repeats I was nervous I couldn’t hold a 9:30 pace (which was the goal) for one mile, let alone 4!  The first mile clocked in at a 9:40, and that was my slowest repeat of the day!  The rest of the repeats fell right in line and I was so close to negative splits!  (9:30, 9:33, 9:25!)  I couldn’t believe the last mile was my fastest.  After we finished the repeats, I knew we were further out than one mile cooldown.  But I felt so strong and still felt like running, so we ran almost 2 miles back to the car.  Which clocked in my total mileage for the day at 7.87 miles!  The furthest I have run in months.  And the fact that I felt so strong and completed it at such an amazingly strong pace was baffling to me.  Now, if only I can harness this power and bring it to my solo runs.

 

The end of last week didn’t go quite so well.  My calves have been struggling to keep up with the higher mileage lately, therefor have been hurting and sore.  I quit halfway through my long run last week leaving my weekly mileage for week one at almost 15 miles.  I am sitting at 13 miles this week and staring at a 9 mile run tomorrow, which would put me at 21 miles for this week.  If I can get through a 21 mile week uninjured and having run the entire 21 miles as a midfoot striker, I think I can make it for the rest of the training cycle.  (My highest mileage week is a little over 30.)  I am so glad I had one of those runs that make me remember why I run and leave me with a runners high for days afterwards.  I hope my 9 go equally as well tomorrow!

This past month has been a bit of a hiatus from running.  I needed sometime mentally to get prepared and get my drive back.  Training for two back to back half’s really took a lot out of me mentally and mostly physically.  I beat myself up after my last race and wanted to hit the next half full force.  So, Monday started the 12 week journey to half marathon number 3!  I have already registered for the Charleston Half Marathon (where there is also a full) and am two runs into my schedule.  The schedule I picked for this cycle is a higher mileage schedule.  It peaks long runs at 13 miles (twice) and includes lots of mid week longer runs.  Every day has a scheduled pace, workout, and order.  I love that about it.  This training cycle is also a lot different than the last ones because I am transitioning to minimalist(ish) shoes and also to becoming a midfoot striker.  I am a horrible heel striker and that has contributed to injuries, slugishness, and slow race times.  I started running two to three miles in my new shoes, and am now up to five.  So, hopefully, the goal is to run 13.1 miles in these shoes while midfoot striking the whole way!

I am sure there are a few runs I will miss here and there, but this schedule is going to be a lot tougher than my previous schedules and I am certainly ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

So,  Monday I did core work.  I am trying to get in all of my cross training or at the very least some yoga and core work on my rest days.  I did crunches, planks, stretching, and a few bridges.  I was shocked, but the next day I could really feel it.  I just did a few exercises off of Pinterest, but they really worked and I felt sore.  Tuesday, I packed my bag before work and stopped and ran on the way home. 

Tuesday:

Easy 4 mile run with 4×20 second strides at the end. 

Miles:  4. 38

Pace:  11:03 average

Splits: 10:39, 11:13, 11:00, 11:32 (last .38 were at a 10:30 pace, strides and recovery jog included)

My goal for this run was to keep as many splits as I could over 11 minutes.  I have a really hard time holding myself back and that has bitten me hard in my past two races.  Clearly, the splits were unevenly paced, which is also a goal I would like to achieve.  Overall, I loved this run.  I did it without music and it was cooler and easy. 

Thursday:

Tempo Run:  2 mile warm-up and 3 miles at goal pace

Miles:  5.00

Pace: 10:42

Splits:  11:25, 11:27, 10:26, 10:20, 9:48

This run was a bit of a challenge.  The humidity was at 93 percent and it was already 78 degrees.  I had two friends riding their bikes beside me, which made it an easier run and a much more enjoyable time.  I felt like i was struggling during my two warm up miles and tried not to get stuck in that mindset.  Which the second mile turned, I tried to give it as much as I could.  I am aiming for a 10:18 goal pace, which would bring me in at close to 2:15.  (A 14 minute PR!) As I get farther into this training session I will have a more accurate view of where I am physically. 

 

This weekend is a repeat of the 4 miles with strides and then a long slow run of 8 miles tomorrow morning.  It feels good to be back and mentally, I feel ready to train hard!

So, this past few weeks, I haven’t really been on much of a plan per say.  I’ve been trying to run between 15-20 miles a week and not doing a weekend long run yet.  I’ve been gradually upping my weekly miles and last week was a great running week!  I feel like my body will be ready to run the half marathon I have scheduled for November 3rd.  So, last week was one of my higher mileage weeks, and I was hoping for the same type of week this week.  But, with my birthday coming up on Saturday, that might not happen.

 

Sunday (9/15)

5 mile run at 11 minute pace-I wanted to go farther this day and make it a longer run, but it just didn’t happen for me!

Monday

Rest day!

Tuesday (9/17)

6.23 miles at a 10:16 pace-This was one of my favorite runs I have had in quite some time.  I ran 2 miles warm up, 3 miles at half marathon pace, then 1mile at a 5k pace.  Little bit of a cool down and including a short stretch after I got home.

Wednesday (9/18)

Rest

Thursday (9/19)

4.5 miles at a 10:30 pace.

Saturday (9/21)

5 miles at a 10:50 pace.  This run was different because I ran in my new shoes!  I am trying to learn to run properly, by not heel striking, and have made the transition to minimalist shoes.  I ran the first 2 miles with them on and then switched to my old stability shoes for the last 3 miles.

Last week was full of mid distance runs.  I am ready to start training distances again and hope to get to 8 miles in the next week.  Overall, I feel great about the direction my running is heading.  I have pushed myself this week to be fairly comfortable running 5 miles.  It is where I feel the best and most confident.  For my birthday this coming weekend, I want to run (and hopefully PR!!) in a 5K.  I feel that my body can feel comfortable pushing for 3 miles and I feel confident I could break the 30 minute mark for a 5K! Till then, I will just keep trying to push my distance back to weekend long runs!

So, its been almost two weeks since my last half marathon and that’s about how long it has taken me to get over this feeling of disappointment in myself and my time.  This race was hard.  Actually, hard would be an understatement for me.  This race was a mental battle from mile 8-13.  At mile 8, things fell apart for me.  I’m not sure what exactly happened, but I felt like I wasn’t going to finish.  I walked 2 full miles in this race.  two.  full.  miles.  I don’t have much to recap from this race because it was just a hard, hill, humid, rainy run.  I started off entirely too fast for my own good.  I should have known when my first 5 miles flew by and at a 10:20-10:30 pace, I should have known I couldn’t keep that up for long.  I am more motivated than ever to do better and stick really strict to my training plan.  Including not missing every other run and giving the runs I do complete my all.  I won’t beat myself up for missing a run, but I also won’t be so slack on training.  Because I know exactly what slack training gets you..a crappy race time and tears of disappointment at the finish line.

For the first five miles, as I said they flew by.  I felt great, I complimented other runners, I enjoyed the breeze off of the river, and I enjoyed running.  At mile 6, I knew I had one more mile until I saw my family and I wanted to look strong for them.  I breezed by them and tossed my hat and still felt strong.  Although I was starting to feel the pressure I had put on myself to keep up with the difficult pace I had set.  Miles 8-10 were a slight uphill and peaked at mile 10 being a long steep incline.  (where i did most of my walking).  I tried to do intervals here and get into the music and just dig deep.  I would run for 9 minutes and walk for 1 minute which was working for about 30 minutes.  Then, I could barely keep up with any amount of running.  By the end, I was just trying to run to a light post 100 yards or so and then would walk for much much longer.  I wanted to cry, I wanted to quit.  I was embarrassed about my performance and by mile 11, I knew I was going to be over my previous half marathon time.  I just don’t know why I get in my own head so bad and how to just enjoy the run, regardless of how you are doing.  I know my training wasn’t up to par, and I know I didn’t give this race my best.  I crossed the finish line and cried uncontrollably.  I know this is the crazy train and the fact that I completed 13.1 miles and feel ashamed and upset is insane.  But, I think these bad races will make that one day when I can run a half marathon and feel pride will be that much sweeter.  I have been through bad races and I have been through great races.  I just can’t wait for the day when 13.1 miles is a great race.  So, for now, I will keep pushing and trying.

“Sometimes courage doesn’t come with a roar.  Sometimes it is simply a small whisper saying, I will try again tomorrow”

 

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of business and fun!  My training has once again taken a little bit of a back seat, but I did manage to get in my long run (12 miles!) and my tempo run of a quick 1.5 miles.  I did a slow 3 mile run in the rain as well, but it was no where close to my 25 miles on the week I was supposed to hit!  But on the best part of the week, my 12 mile run is done!  Last time on my training schedule, I couldn’t complete this run because it was too hot and I wasn’t acclimated to the heat!  But this time, I breezed through it!  At 10 seconds faster than my average pace for my 10 mile run!  Just overall a really great training run and a real confidence booster.  The last half of this training plan hasn’t gone anywhere near how I expected, but this time around, I’m ready.  I know the distance thats ahead of me and I’m not afraid of it!  Whoohoo!

I am almost positive I can run the entire 13 miles this time, as opposed to last time, when I hobbled/cried the last 2 miles with a small bit of running thrown in somewhere.  I am no longer focused on time of finishing and just having fun.  This race will be all flat, with the exception of a few hills, but it is also by a river, which provides a breeze.  And did I mention its at night!?  Instead of the sun coming up and getting hotter as I’m going, its going to be getting cooler the longer I run!

Sorry, this post isn’t much, but honestly this week of training wasn’t much either.  These next two weeks of taper, I am going to be running less mileage and it is usually where I start to freak out that I’m not running enough.  Hopefully this following week will bring more confidence boosters and more miles!